Our Trainees

Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Students

Andrew Hawkey (Project 1 and NBT Core) is a postdoctoral Research Associate on the new Project 1 (2017-2021) and in the new NBT Core, working with Dr. Edward Levin.

Rashmi Joglekar (Project 3) is co-advised by Joel Meyer, PhD, and Susan Murphy, PhD.

Jordan Kozal (Project 4) is a doctoral student in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, with a focus in integrated toxicology and environmental health. She holds a bachelor of science in biology from Stanford University. At Duke, Jordan is a member of Richard Di Giulio’s laboratory working on Superfund Project 3. Jordan is interested in mechanistic ecotoxicology– specifically aryl hydrocarbon receptor independent mechanisms of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) mediated cardio and neurotoxicity as well as their potential to act as selection pressures underlying the PAH resistance of adapted Elizabeth River Fundulus heteroclitus. She is also interested in how PAH exposures affect fish energetics (swimming performance and mitochondrial function) and the energetic fitness costs of adaptation to pollution.

Erin Kollitz (Project 2) is a postdoctoral researcher working in the labs of Dr. Heather M. Stapleton and Dr. P. Lee Ferguson. Erin obtained her PhD in Toxicology from North Carolina State University in 2013. Her current project focuses on how flame retardants and related contaminants disrupt thyroid receptor function. Specifically, she focuses on contaminant-receptor interactions, and the impact of contaminant-binding on downstream steps in the receptor activation pathway, including interactions with additional proteins, DNA, and altered gene expression. 

Emilie Lefevre (Project 4) is an Associate in Research in Civil and Environmental Engineering working with Dr. Claudia Gunsch.  She obtained her PhD in 2007 in the field of Aquatic Microbial Ecology from the University of Clermont-Ferrand II, France. Her areas of expertise span the fields of aquatic microbial ecology, community and ecosystem ecology, fungal ecology, and environmental engineering. Her main project in the Gunsch lab focuses on the biodegradation of Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) a widely used flame-retardant, potentially toxic towards wildlife and human health. More specifically, she is working on the characterization of TBBPA biodegradation pathway and the microbial communities responsible for its degradation using both culture-dependent and molecular techniques.

Tess Leuthner (Project 3) is a member of the Meyer lab. She researches mitochondrial toxicity of Superfund-related chemicals and their impacts on organisms including C. elegans

Casey Lindberg (Project 4) graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S. in Marine Science and a concentration in Chemical Oceanography in 2014. She is currently working to obtain her Ph.D. through the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program and is a member of Richard Di Giulio’s lab. Her research interests include impacts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure on Atlantic killifish, a species native to the entire Eastern shore of the United States, and how multiple environmental stressors impact populations of killifish that have adapted to withstand acute PAH toxicity.

Latasha Smith (Project 3) obtained her BS degree in Biology from UNC Wilmington, and is the Meyer lab’s first recruit from the pharmacology and cancer biology department at Duke. She is advised by Dr. Meyer and investigates the toxicity of chemicals on mitochondria.

Rafael Trevisan (Project 4)


Past Trainees (2011-17):

Jordan Bailey (NBTA) did her post-doctoral research associate work with Dr. Ed Levin in the Neural and Behavioral Toxicity Assessment Core of the Superfund center.  Jordan left the Center in 2015 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Michigan State University. At Duke, she worked primarily on characterizing the functional impact of exposure to toxicants, using the small freshwater zebrafish (Danio rerio). With this model she was able to assess exposure-induced change on a wide range of behavioral domains. Jordan introduced or developed several assays for detecting behavior change in zebrafish, including those that tap social affiliation, fear and escape, and learning. She was primarily interested in understanding the behavioral mechanisms of toxicity and relating those to the cellular mechanisms that are emphasized in other Superfund laboratories. Jordan’s training is in behavioral toxicology where her dissertation work focused on Ca++ channel-dependent mechanisms of methylmercury toxicity in vivo, using a rodent model.

Audrey Bone (Project 3 and KC Donnelly Externship) was a doctoral candidate in Dr. Di Giulio’s lab. Audrey was one of five awardees of the prestigious KC Donnelly externship, which allowed her to work in Dr. Robert Tanguay’s lab at Oregon State University for a summer. At Duke, Audrey studied how degrading PAHs with titanium dioxide nanoparticles affects their toxicity to zebrafish.  

Daniel Brown (Project 3) conducted his PhD thesis work in the Di Giulio laboratory.  Dan graduated in 2015 and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the SPIRE Program at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Di Giulio lab has worked extensively with acute embryonic exposures to PAHs in both f. heteroclitus and zebrafish (causes “tube heart” or “stringy heart” in both species and pericardial edema); however, little is known about more subtle consequences of low-level exposures to PAHs. Dan was interested in low-level exposure to PAHs and the growing concern that early life exposure can have significant behavioral and performance consequences that persist into adulthood.  Dan’s project was designed to explore how low-level, embryonic exposure specifically impacts the heart and can lead to behavior/performance apical endpoints. The project integrated fish behavioral assays using the expertise of the behavioral core led by Dr. Ed Levin.  The project also introduced additional swimming performance based assays using a swimming tunnel respirometer.  Changes in fish morphology were also considered utilizing the expertise of the David Hinton’s laboratory.

Bryan Clark (Project 3) was a Postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Richard Di Giulio’s lab. He received his PhD from Duke University in 2010, and his MS in Toxicology from Iowa State University in 2004. While at Duke, he studied the molecular mechanisms that underlie the adapted population of mummichogs living in the Elizabeth River in Virginia, near the Atlantic Wood Superfund site.

Lauren Czaplicki (Project 5) is a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering with a focus in Environmental Process Engineering. She holds a Bachelor’s of Environmental Engineering from The Ohio State University. At The Ohio State University she gained a strong background in water chemistry and researched thallium leaching from fly ash.  She’s changed gears and currently researches ways to mitigate exposure by transforming pollutants at their source. She’s focused on using fungi to do this in a process called mycoremediation. She worked with Dr. Claudia Gunsch looking at fungal communities in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon polluted soil. She and Dr. Gunsch aimed to stimulate the native community of degraders in a remediation design.

Wu Dong (Hinton lab) is a postdoctoral researcher in Nicholas School of the Environment working with Dr. David Hinton as a collaborator on Project 4.  He obtained his PhD in 2002 in the field of Toxicology from Rakuno Gakuen University, Japan. He researches the molecular toxicology of environmental contaminants such as Dioxin (TCDD), Benzopyrene (BaP), Selenium and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). His main project in the Hinton Lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms of PBDE and Selenium toxicity in the embryos of zebrafish and Medaka.

Mingliang (Thomas) Fang (Project 2) was a PhD student in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and graduated in 2014. He is now a Postdoctoral researcher with The Scripps Research Institute, in La Jolla, CA. Thomas also holds a Master of Science in Environmental Chemistry from Pohang University of Science and Technology, South Korea and a Bachelor degree of Environmental/Chemical Engineering from Xi’an JiaoTong University, China. With a background in analytical chemistry, his past studies included the environmental occurrence of a novel flame retardant “V6”, metabolism of flame retardants and measurement of their metabolites in the urine, and application of “Effect-directed Analysis” to identify the causal compounds for the observed fish developmental toxicity in the Superfund site. Currently, Thomas was particularly interested in the endocrine disruption caused by mixtures of compounds as well as environmental relevant samples (e.g., house dust and sediment). His PhD thesis is focused on identification of “environmental obesogens” in the house dust, titled as “Characterizing the Binding Potential, Activity, and Bioaccessibility of Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor (PPARγ) Ligands in Indoor Dust”. Thomas enjoys employing his background in environmental chemistry and interest in the cutting-edge high-throughput bioassay (e.g., ligand-binding assay, reporter assay and zebrafish embryo) to identify the known and unknown environmental endocrine disruptors in the environment.

Jeff Farner-Budarz (former Project 4) was a doctoral student working with Dr. Mark Wiesner.

Courtney Gardner (Project 4) was a doctoral candidate in Dr. Claudia Gunsch’s lab. Her research focused on the survival of antibiotic resistance genes found in transgenic crops in the wastewater treatment plant system.

Gretchen Gehrke (Project 4) was a postdoctoral researcher working with Helen Hsu-Kim, and investigated the effects of carbon-based sediment amendments on sediment geochemistry and trace metals bioavailability.  Gretchen holds a PhD in Geochemistry from the University of Michigan, where she studied environmental sources and biogeochemical cycling of mercury, specifically by analyzing mercury stable isotope fractionation.  As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, Gretchen double-majored in Earth Sciences and Chemistry, and wrote senior theses about arsenic mobility in Cambodian groundwater and the coordination chemistry of arsenic-thiol complexes.  Gretchen is broadly interested in understanding trace metals biogeochemical cycling and macro-scale environmental dynamics, and developing efficient remediation strategies for contaminated sediments and soils. She is currently working as an Environmental Study Design and Advocacy Specialist with Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science.

Nishad Jayasundara (Project 3) was a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Richard T. Di Giulio. He accepted a faculty position at the University of Maine in 2017. His work broadly focused on investigating bio energetic costs associated with resistance to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in several populations of mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus) in the Elizabeth River, VA. Nishad’s work also involved understanding mechanisms underlying PAH induced cardio-toxicity in fish using transcriptomic studies. Nishad is originally from Sri Lanka and completed his PhD at Stanford University, CA.

Laura Macaulay (Project 2) graduated from Duke with her PhD in 2015. She was a student in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke, and focused on environmental chemistry and toxicology. She holds a bachelor of science in Chemistry from Wofford College in South Carolina. Her dissertation research focused on the developmental and endocrine toxicity of flame retardant chemicals (specifically polybrominated diphenyl ethers-PBDEs) using zebrafish as a model organism. PBDEs and their metabolites share a similar chemical structure to native thyroid hormones.  Says Laura, “My project examined the endocrine toxicity of these compounds using both early life stage and juvenile zebrafish. We were also interested in studying the later life effects of early life developmental exposures, using neurobehavioral tests in both larval and adult animals in collaboration with the NBTA core of our superfund center.” Laura is a Post-doctoral fellow in the National Center for Environmental Assessment conducting human health risk assessment for various environmental chemicals.

Anthony Oliveri (NBT) was a doctoral student in the Pharmacology and Cancer Biology Department of the Duke University School of Medicine, working in the lab of Ed Levin. His undergraduate degree is in Biology and Neuroscience from Grinnell College.  Here at Duke he was involved in neurobehavioral pharmacology and toxicology, and studied the way in which exposures to psychiatric medications, drugs of abuse, and environmental compounds such as the organophosphate pesticides and flame retardants during the brain’s development can alter behavioral outcomes in ways that might contribute to cognitive problems or mental illnesses. He focused on the way these compounds can disrupt the development of dopamine systems in the brain and the behavioral consequences throughout life. His secondary interests concerned addiction and drugs of abuse more broadly, and he participated in several classes and cross-departmental seminars and projects on these topics.

Tara Raftery Catron (Project 2 and Project 3) was a postdoctoral researcher working with Drs. Rich Di Giulio and Heather Stapleton until she took a position at the US E.P.A in 2016. She obtained her Ph.D. in 2015 from the University of South Carolina in Environmental Health Sciences. Her research interests are focused on understanding the impacts of early-life stage exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and flame retardants on development and later life-stages, using zebrafish as a model. More specifically, her work for Project 3 aimed to identify whether developmental exposure to PAHs affects mitochondrial bioenergetics in larval zebrafish. In addition, for Project 2, her research focused on determining whether flame retardants found in the environment have the potential to act as chemical obesogens.

Lauren Redfern (Project 4) earned her doctoral degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering in July 2017. She has her B.S in biological engineering from the University of Florida. Her research in Claudia Gunsch’s lab focused on the microbial communities at remediated and contaminated sites. She worked on attempting to exploit the microbial communities natural degradation capabilities to optimize remediation efforts, focusing on PAH-contaminated Superfund sites.

Katherine Stencel (Project 2) was a master’s student in the Nicholas School of the Environment in Dr. P. Lee Ferguson’s lab with a concentration in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology. She earned a degree in Chemistry from the College of Wooster and graduated from Duke with her MSc in 2015.  Her research for Project 2 focused on the identification of endocrine disrupting compounds in complex mixtures through the use of receptor-affinity extraction and high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Alexis Wells Carpenter (Project 4) was a post-doctoral research associate in Dr. Mark Wiesner’s lab in the Department of Environmental Engineering.  Her research in the Superfund Center focused on evaluating the use of nanoscale zero valent iron (NZVI) as a nanoremediation strategy.  She received her PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Dr. Mark Schoenfisch. Alexis is now a Principal Investigator/Research Scientist at Triad Growth Partners and is head of the Technical Development Group: developing relevant technologies for commercialization, securing research funding, and managing contract research activities.